Using up the turkey

My family came up for Thanksgiving this year, and like most American households, we had leftovers.  Of course, most of them were finished off pretty quickly, but what to do with that big turkey carcass?  We decided that finding a use for as much of it as we could appealed to our sense of thrift, our desire to reduce our environmental impact, and our love of homemade.  For decades people boiled turkeys, so how hard could it be, right?

We have a huge stock pot already, so we carved off all the meat we could and then dropped the turkey into a pot full of water.  Some carrots, celery, and onions were added, and then it was time to wait.  And wait.  We boiled it for a few hours, making the whole house smell like turkey.  Then it was time for the hard part.

The most important thing to do when making use of the turkey is to get all of the bones out.  This is a bit of a difficult task because the bones can be pretty small and if you boil the turkey too long, they become soft and are sometimes not immediately distinguishable from more edible parts.  It’s also important to note that you can’t feed the bones to your dog because they could splinter and cause severe injury.

Having never done this before, it took a bit of experimentation to get the process down.  What seemed to work best was to use a slotted spoon to skim off some of the floating pieces of fat.  Once that was skimmed off, I used a ladle to slowly add the stock to Ball jars.  At some point, the meat and vegetables make claiming any more stock difficult, at which point I began putting soup in the jars instead.  Using a fork to sort the bones out, I eventually got to the bottom of the pot.  From this, we got roughly 160 ounces of stock and a large coffee can full of soup, plus enough leftover meat to use in a wild rice soup recipe a few days later.

We let it all sit in the refrigerator overnight to allow the fat to float to the top and congeal.  That was skimmed off with a teaspoon and then we froze what were weren’t going to immediately use.  We may have only saved a few dollars, but we kept a lot of perfectly good meat from going to waste.  Plus, we now have plenty of turkey soup for those days when we just don’t feel like making dinner!